People of my generation have grown up with the notion that we could do anything to which we put our minds. It was the movers and shakers who came right before us and fought for civil rights, for black folks and women, whom we have to thank for growing up this way. But in spite of this, never, ever, ever did I think I would live to see a black president of this country. Not only did I not think I'd see it in my lifetime, but not even in my daughter's lifetime!
It was especially meaningful to me, having grown up the daughter of a black father and white mother, and sometimes not knowing where, if anywhere, I fit in, to see someone with the same racial makeup standing in front of this gigantic crowd of the most amazed, inspired, and happy people I have ever seen, giving his first speech as President-elect of our country.
Granted, Barack's dad was from Kenya, and my dad is from Nebraska City, Nebraska, so it's not as if we have much in common outside of our skin color, but still, you get what I mean!
Since I'd taken Kayla with me to the polling place to vote for Barack in the primary, I thought it only fitting she should be with me when I cast my vote for him in this general election. I was going to be working on election day, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and knew it would be a struggle to get both myself and the kid out the door in time to vote before work, and with commute time and baby-pick-up time I'd have no time after work, so we decided to go to the Registrar of Voter's Office, one of which for my county is like 10 minutes from my house.
We get to the county building, which is huge and impressive-looking, and go up in the elevator to the 2nd floor. Anytime we have to go in an elevator, Kayla yells, "Pick me up, Mommy, PICK ME UP!" This kid, who sometimes seems as though she has no fear whatsoever, has this thing about elevators, I think about that little bit of space on the floor right at the elevator door, like she thinks she might fall in or something. Anyway, I grab her, get in the elevator, and when we get out, bam, the line is right there. So it was cool - we stood in line for maybe 30 minutes, during which time I chatted with a nice man behind me who let me borrow his pen so I could fill out my absentee voter application (since basically that's what we were doing, voting absentee only in person). I had no pen since I was trying to travel light with just my phone, my keys, my ID, my jacket (it was nasty cold and rainy when we went), and of course, the kid.
Mercifully, Kayla's patience lasted as long as it took us to vote. When we were done, this gruff sheriff's deputy working the counter gave me a large "I Voted" sticker that he'd been handing out to kids. But part of the top was ripped off (he wasn't the best sticker-ripper-offer guy), and I was like, "Um, could I have one that is not ripped, we want to be able to read it!" And he didn't even say anything, just gave me another one and then did not give me the little "I Voted" sticker for me, and I should have made him, but at the time the old shy Jen had taken over, and I guess I didn't want to push my luck. Anyway, here's a picture of Kayla holding her sticker (because she did not want to put it on for some reason), and of course, also holding Dolly Diego (not to be confused with Plastic Diego), because we do not go anywhere without him:
The next day after work, election night, I went over to my mom's to pick up the kid and watch the results roll in. I wanted to be there, with my kid, my (pretty much) liberal Democrat folks, to watch was hopefully going to be history in the making, and was I ever not disappointed about that.
I mean come on, have you ever seen anything like it? I was hoping by today I would be able to explain how I felt that night. First of all, it was exciting, no matter who you were pulling for, to see so many people amped about the process. But then, it probably wasn't as exciting to you if you were rooting for the other guy. Hey, I understand. This is the girl who voted for Dukakis and Gore and... geez, I always forget the other guy's name... John Kerry! That's it! So see, I know what it feels like when your guy doesn't win.
Mom and I were flipping back and forth between MSNBC and the networks, and at 8 p.m. sharp, we're watching NBC, and there's a picture of Barack against this dark background, filling the screen, and it says "BARACK OBAMA ELECTED 44th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES," and no one is talking. And I look at my mom, and at the TV, and at my mom again, and I probably said, "Holy crap," as that is the appropriate thing to say when you see something like that. Then Brian Williams says "11 p.m. on the east coast, we're back on the air, and we have news... there will be young children in the white house for the first time since the Kennedy generation. An African-American has broken the barrier as old as the Republic. An astonishing candidate, an astonishing campaign, a seismic shift in American politics, you are looking at the 44th President of the United States, the celebration begins... "
Of course, I could have never remembered all of that, thank goodness for YouTube! And what about Amy Carter, though? She was small-ish when she was in the White House, but who cares! It was still beyond hecka cool when that announcement was made. I asked my parents, "Are we sure about this? I'm not going to go to bed with Barack as President and wake up and find out the other guy won, am I?" Once they assured me that would not be the case I felt even better about the whole thing.
The elation we felt that night, my mom and I as we looked at each other, then back at the TV, the elation that Spook and I felt as we yelled in each other's ears over the phone (just like we did back in '92), it was so much more than just, "Check it out, our guy won!" His win was truly a sign of hope, that things could actually get better, hope that many of us have not felt in a really long time. And as we all know, it won't happen overnight, but it will happen. A change is gonna come.